by Carl Nater
Director, Educational Film Division
Walt Disney Productions
VISITORS to the Disney studio always want to know "what makes them move?" But the thoughtful educator will probe for the root. He will ask, "Why make them move?," and that question, by no coincidence at all, leads into the discussion of the matter at hand – the function of the animated cartoon in the teaching process, and the separation of its field from that of live-action.
Actually, the fields of the two media are clearly marked. Where the live-action camera is the counterpart of the physical eye, the animation camera represents the mind's eye. Live-action will reproduce anything that can be seen – animation will produce anything that can be imagined. Both fields are rich in potential. Much of the curriculum is rightly concerned with the facsimile physical aspects of the world in which the students will live, and in this broad field the live-action camera is unchallenged. But teachers also want to impart a comprehension of abstracts, of ideas, of principles; and that is the proper field of animation.
A direct demonstration of the fact that the two media are complementary rather than competitive appears in a film now current in the schools. Titled ]et Propulsion* , the film alternates between live-action, to show what the jet plane actually looks like on the ground and in flight; and animation, to make clear the princijjles on which it works. The result is more effective than it would have been had either medium been used exclusively.
The educative possibilities of live-action are concrete, and reasonably apparent; those of animation are not so apparent, and need a good deal of exploration. And so, using pictorial examples from the Jet Propulsion film, let's talk about animation and what it can do in its proper field of clarifying the difficult-to-understand idea, principle, and concept.